Delegation

Let’s set aside our nostalgia for the good old days when we could assure our businesses would succeed with a little more hard work. Allow yourself to appreciate, as a memory, the days when your business was well served by your personal effort and use of your natural talent or tactically applied skill. Today matters are a little more complex.

We need to lead and manage our entrepreneurial businesses with a crisp and well-understood vision. We need to commit ourselves to be continuous students of the complicated skills required to manage a team of people working toward a common goal.

As our businesses grow, we need to reserve more time and energy for the leadership and managerial responsibilities mentioned above. We need to delegate.

Let’s define delegation first.

Delegation is when a leader assigns a personally held task, project or responsibility to someone else while maintaining accountability. For this to occur effectively, a leader must define the scope of the responsibility, discuss how this task relates to the larger picture of your business (if required) and state clearly what success looks like.

Effective delegation assigns a team member in your organisation to be the tactical implementer or the “doer.” Meanwhile, you—as the leader—become the manager of the processes and standards of your business. Eventually, as your business grows and this delegation process continues, you may find yourself managing managers. These managers, in turn, will delegate tasks to their immediate staff. One day you will more than likely find yourself beaming with quiet satisfaction at the well-oiled machine of your team working independently to implement your vision and performing peacefully within the structures of a consistent, fair and inspirational managerial process.

You might be asking yourself, “Is this really necessary to build a sustainable enterprise?” The simple answer is yes.

I don’t believe it is necessary to grow your business to the size where you have managers of managers. However, I do believe it is necessary to grow your business past the limitations of the founding talents on which the business was created.

Hopefully, each leader reading this article can think of someone in your organisation who is amazingly better than yourself at some task or skill that your business requires.

What is the prescription for delegation?

• Is your current and future-looking personal leadership for your company producing a sustainably successful business? Make sure your vision is consistently tested for accuracy versus the constant pressures of a changing marketplace.

• Is your value proposition still valid? If not, your team is counting on your leadership for some adaptation that will keep your company completely relevant to your marketplace.

• Define the standards and structures that will define your employees’ relationship to your company. Everyone who accepts leadership and direction from others will perform best when they know what we as a company are trying to accomplish and what my role is to the group.

• Build the strongest team possible. Hire talented people. Empower them to exercise their unique skills and talents within the constraints of the company’s communally understood goals.

• Watch your company’s delegation and accountability processes. In a growing company, just about everyone should be headed toward a slightly different job. The natural progression of delegation with accountability should best position everyone to contribute to their greatest potential. Please remember that as “doers” get assigned a blended managerial role or even a totally managerial role, they will more than likely need support. Superior “doers” do not necessarily morph into great managers without support. You will need to provide for their learning and transition.

• Require of yourself to be a “manager in training” forever. It is hard and complicated work. Be a role model of managerial excellence to your direct reports. They will make the connection to their own efforts.

• Delegate with accountability and the appropriate KPI’s  – never abandon. Communicate. Manage. Learn to manage even better. Enjoy the fruits of a sustainable and prosperous business.

One final point: I think the practice of quality delegation is way up there on the list of important markers of great business leadership. Making sure your vision is correct is the most important marker. There is always more work to be done than there are hours in the day. This truth is a constant.

A strong tradition of continuous delegation within our organisations is quite simply this: good for your business, good for the careers of your staff, good for you and your family life.

Lead On. Manage on.

 

Ideas for an Engaged Workforce

 

Don Harrington

I’ve been reading up on employee engagement and have come across some scary statistics about disengagement and lack of passion in the ranks. Here are a few ideas to help get your employees engaged:

• Give them side projects to do that are of interest to them and have the potential to be valuable to the company. Let them know how important they are and let them go play.

• Get your employees involved in some way shape or form with your customers. Whether through sharing expertise with customers to define new products and features, attending customer appreciation events, or attending trade shows, try to provide access from employee to customer.

• Cross-train your people. Learning each other’s functions help your employees gain new skills and appreciate everyone’s value to the organisation.

• Encourage your employees to network. Let them learn more about your industry, gain additional skills, and meet other experts in the space. Add value to your employees which can result in increased productivity and expertise for your business’ success.

Employees today are generally speaking burned-out and unsatisfied. You can help change the feeling of your employees and get them more engaged in your business so that they have more fun and everyone benefits.

 

Are You Overworking Your Employees?

overworking your employees

When you last strolled around your workplace, did you notice any difference in the environment? Did you get a sense that your employees felt stressed-out (or more so than usual)? Were people less friendly than in the past? Was some sort of “siege mentality vibe” present in the air?

Having an overworked or burned-out workforce comes with risks no business owner can afford to ignore. Was this a factor in the number of pilots abandoning Ryanair for Norweigan airlines? Above and beyond the problems this can cause a business internally, there’s also the possibility that overworked employees can lead to the manufacture of inferior products and services, as well as growing customer dissatisfaction with your business.

That’s why it’s so important to notice “red flags” suggesting overworked employees and take action before any serious damage occurs.

Here are warning signs to watch for:

1. A change in attitude and engagement. You know who your most upbeat and positive employees are. If these hard-working individuals exhibit signs of burnout, don’t pretend that all is OK. Look for employees who eagerly participate in meetings, but now sit back, arms crossed and remain silent throughout the discussion.

In the same respect, pay attention when employees who are known for never complaining about work conditions begin to grumble about “always feeling behind” or “never having enough time” to get their work done. Of course, some of these individuals may never speak up, but if you get the feeling they’re avoiding you (because they don’t want to get stuck with more work assignments), that’s another clear warning sign of trouble ahead.

2. Employees are working longer hours. Let’s assume for the moment that business owners are generally the first ones in the office each day and the last to leave. Have you noticed that some employees are already at their desk when you walk in the door or that some are still at their desk when you’re getting ready to leave? This is a clear indicator people are putting in hours well above a “normal” 40-hour workweek—yet another indication of looming employee burnout.

3. Absenteeism rates increase. Sometimes employees send the message they’re feeling overworked by simply taking more days off than usual. Often, there’s a good reason they’ve decided to stay home; workplace stress is causing them to lose sleep, eat poorly and experience more anxiety than they can handle.

4. Employees are leaving your business. High turnover may be the most clear-cut sign of employee burnout. If you feel you have good managers in place, then it’s time to look at burnout as a key reason for a mass employee exodus.

What can you do to combat these alarming trends?

5. Find out what’s going on. Invite employees to talk to you about their working conditions. If they’re reluctant to discuss the situation, “ask questions that allow him or her to bring up the possibility of burnout,”  Try coaching style questions such as: ‘What do you have on your plate right now—and if you had the choice, how would you change it?’” Let them know you want an honest appraisal of their workload, so you can work together to address the problem. Its a good time to be a coach rather than a preacher in such circumstances.

6. Assist with prioritising job duties. Employees who feel overwhelmed may need assistance in prioritising all the assignments they face. As part of your coaching discussion, encourage them to openly discuss everything on their plate and then collaborate on creating a reasonable schedule for achieving the most important tasks first, and everything else later. Make clear that, as far as you’re concerned, doing the best job they can is more important than trying to do everything and having little to show for it.

7. Encourage (and model) a healthy balance of work and life. An effective leader always advocates for a healthy work-life balance for their employees. “As long as they are getting results, don’t baulk if they leave early to hit the gym,” says workplace expert Alexandra Levit.

Also, remember that employees look to you as a model of proper workplace conduct. There’s no question that entrepreneurs and CEOs are challenged to find the right balance between their businesses and their health and personal lives. But making this a top priority in your own life sends the message that you want employees to do the same themselves—thus, promoting better health and reducing stress and burnout on the job.

Do you believe employees are among your company’s most important resources? If so, do everything in your power to keep them from succumbing to burnout. The war for talent is significant at present and if you do not have a good employer brand, it could be very difficult to replace them in the current buoyant market.

 

Four Common Lead Generation Mistakes to Avoid

lead generation

Where would your sales figures be without qualified leads? Leads matter because people have demonstrated an interest in your business’ products or services and are willing to share personal information in order to learn more. Some of these leads can be nurtured into prospects and converted into sales, but many won’t.

The key for you and your sales team is recognising common mistakes that negatively impact the opportunities to cultivate rich and eventually profitable leads. Here are four key mistakes to avoid:

1. Your lead capture forms aren’t “user-friendly.”

Generating leads starts with capturing key customer information—enough to move a casual visitor to your site to start the sales process rolling. Many sales efforts stumble when the lead capture forms on your landing page don’t reflect a typical user’s preferences; either they ask for too much information or, alternately, request too little of the user.

Short forms may generate larger numbers of potential leads, but the quality of those leads might be lacking. There simply won’t be enough for your sales team to go on, and a lot of time can be wasted chasing after prospects who stubbornly refuse to become “qualified” in the desirable sense of the word.

Forms that ask for too much information are most likely to discourage potential interest in your business offering. (Though, on the bright side, those visitors willing to share an abundance of information are probably better qualified, to begin with.)

Finding the right length for your lead form may depend on what you offer as a “reward” for sharing information. Strive to balance your request for data with the value of the benefit you’re offering.

2. Your web pages aren’t optimised to generate leads.

As with any business site, visitors flock to certain pages more than others. Businesses sometimes err by not optimising the most heavily trafficked sites (such as the home page, “Contact Us,” etc.). Here are opportunities to seize on prospect interest in your business. Make sure these pages are optimised with eye-catching, stand-alone calls-to-action (CTAs), generally placed in the upper left-hand corner for prime visibility. Also consider adding special offers on these pages, in order to generate further interest.

“If your CTA does happen to send users to a general page on your site, it’s likely that they won’t bother wasting the time trying to find what they were after in the first place,” warns marketing expert Sarah Quinn. “They’ll just get it elsewhere.”

3. The call-to-action lacks urgency.

Speaking of CTAs, how compelling are the ones you feature now? Remember, visitors come to your site at different stages in their “buyer’s journey.” A generic CTA won’t likely produce much response. Consider tailoring these with different goals in mind, such as downloading a white paper, viewing a demo product video or some other value-added incentive to generate more click-throughs.

4. The definition of a “qualified lead” isn’t shared throughout the organisation.

In some organisations, there’s a clash between marketing and sales when it comes to defining a lead. Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) are those leads identified by marketing as having genuine potential for a long-range customer relationship (with an emphasis on repeat business), These leads may grow out of analytic results or customer demographic characteristics that have proven successful in the past.

Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) are, by contrast, regarded by the sales team as promising opportunities for a short-term closed deal.

“It’s imperative that your company’s definition of an MQL matches its definition of an SQL for this transference between departments to work seamlessly,” cautions marketing executive Giles House. For better results, close communications “between teams will improve overall sales by generating a marketing agenda that best suits and supports your sales force.”

 

Henry Ford’s Wisdom for Product Development

Dave Lounge

There are many theories about how to develop new products or improve existing products or services. One solid approach is to ask your customers for ideas on how to improve a product or what they would like to see. This brings to mind a famous quote by Henry Ford, “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse!”

Even though you may get negative feedback, you can still use what you learn to produce the “wow factor” by providing your customers with something they didn’t expect.